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Thread: On the playing of Dark Messiah by Me: a Thread

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Jun 1999
    Location: Procrastination, Australia

    On the playing of Dark Messiah by Me: a Thread

    I've had this thing sitting around for ages before I installed it, but after I upgraded Call of Cthulhu had been waiting the longest, then there was Bioshock, Stalker, more Stalker, Stalker mods, the Crysis demo, Stalker some more...you get the idea.
    So here I am in Dark Messiah at long last. In short I would say it was a varied experience, from annoying and ugly, to awesome and delightfully fun. It's quite breezily short and moves at a decent pace. Like a Ramones album anything you don't like very much will be gone soon enough so don't worry about it too much. It is, like a lot of games, not really sure what's fun about itself and tries to have it too many ways for my money. It seems obvious what it really wants to do; righteous choppage and maybe magic. But just in case we'll have hide in the crawlspace 'boss fights' and Dragon's Lair reflex tests for no real reason and have a preposterous amount of spiky things absolutely everywhere (yes, everyone mentions it. And they should. It's idiotic). Like a conveniently placed ammo stash before a big open space in an FPS, a sudden fashion for spiky metal in an open area in Dark Messiah means prepare for a big stoush.
    A word on the chopping; can't say I'm in love with it over all. I did have fun with it eventually, but it really didn't feel right for the most part. Firstly, what's up with the backpedal? It's like a backwards creep! What the hell kind of swordsman can't back up? A dead one, that's what.
    I had a lot of trouble with weapon range too. I guess that's tough in this sort of game, but I really didn't feel like the sword in my hand was quite as long as its swing seemed, consequently I was regularly too 'close' for the game and hitting things was a bit weird. I dunno if it's field of view or something. Also it didn't have a lot of options for fighting and subsequently didn't feel like the desperate melee of some other games. Quick swings seemed to be supernaturally deflectable, so you basically have no option but to power swing /thrust, shield block and kick the whole time. Even with lighter swords I had no luck trying actual fighting tactics like sidestepping an over-reaching opponent and giving them a good whack from the side, unless I charged up a power swing first. The other problem is the body awareness thing that kinda restricts your movement at times because some animation still has to run for a few more frames. This aspect is probably quite realistic and in a real battle I'd surely trip over my feet a lot, but it's kinda annoying when you're trying to do precise movements and things. Makes things slugglish and unresponsive. A lot of weird leaps and things result.
    I am forced to compare it to Severance, as that's the adrenaline fueled sword biffo champion for me (haven't played Mount and Blade yet). Much is said about its use of combos, but the AI and combat mechanics is so solid you don't even need them. With patience and skill you can feint, block and slash your way to victory. I never got that same 'zone' with DrkMess. Maybe it's the perspective or the number of moves, or the lack of Severance's solidity of things (swords do damage if you -walk- into them. DM seems to have more Street Fighter mechanics of 'if enemy blocking, blow=stopped'). Maybe I need more practice or something, but after a certain point I didn't really need to worry. I was so tough most enemies were cake in only a few blows.
    I wonder if this is because of the story?

    -there'll be Spoilers now (I don't know what to blue and don't want to blue the whole thing)-
    The story was ok in a fairly gleefully pulpish way. I'm not sure if that was the intention. I was actually surprised by the appearence of story options. Didn't seem like that sort of game at first. There only really seems to be one major choice (besides the endings, but since multiple endings are just a matter of reloading and trying the others they don't constitute meaningful branches). How did I choose? I got rid of Tyra Durden the first chance I could. She was standing between me and a very nice sword I had been carrying around for half the game. It did preposterous damage and I really wanted to use it. She complained a bit and threatened a reckoning (that never showed up!) but otherwise it worked out great. I could demolish opponents with ease!
    I thought it was obvious that I would be the bad guy (kinda) and get to defy my birth. But I quite liked that the other bad guy wasn't really so bad, since he was trying to stop me, but I still had to fight him anyway because I didn't want to die, among other things. And surely daddy-o could have looked a bit less like Sauron? (never really used The Darkness mode except for once. Much preferred chopping, all told, even if I found the implimentation not the best).
    I even sorta liked that you don't really go anywhere: go to a town; town gets trashed; go to a temple on an island;crawl around in there for yonks; go back to trashed town; wander around in necromancer's complex thing and catacombs under town and that's pretty much it. It's just one big fetch quest instead of a lot of little ones. The level design artistry is kinda variable. There's some bits that really work well, including some terriffic vast catcombs, but then there's the necromancer's place which was a whole lot of square corridors with things on the walls. Reminded me of a deathmatch map (in fairness I think they were just living up to the spartan, clinical design style they made for the Necros, but it just made it dull and repetetive). I would bet most of the bits I like were done by the same person. They all seemed to have the same grasp of space (and all seemed to involve the dead, perhaps by coincidence), but the unreal-ish old temple bits were good too. Nice characters and animations as well.

    All in all it was fun. Not great but not horrible by any means. Surprisingly light too. Not something I would have expected from his kind of game. But it does make me interested to play through it again and do things different, despite not loving it, so I guess that means it worked.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2007
    Location: Las Vegas, USSR
    I pretty much agree with all your review of DM: very accurate, well done.

    About backpedaling, it's quite obviously an attempt to make backward fighting impossible, like you end up doing most of the time in Morrowind and Oblivion, for instance. It's particulary difficult to adapt first when you're using bows. However i didnt make a bow runthrough yet, so i don't know how it works when you get used to no backpedaling. From the two runs i made, i'd say backward move could have been tweaked to be a bit faster.

    About your weapon being able to crush enemies in a few strikes, i assume you've played the big sword way. It's even worse when you get rid of Xana and obtain the Dragonsomething weaponswhich make you almost invicible.

    Playing it the dagger way kinda deals with this problem, and in my memories, allows you to try different ways to approach melee fighting. Also, besides being basic, i found sneaking phases to remain enjoyable, and plunging daggers in the throat of unaware guards was good fun.

    I never used any of the spells, and planned that the next run i'd try would be a staff/spell one, but i'd be interested to know how it feels and if the game makes the magic way entertaining.

  3. #3
    Moderator
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Hong Kong
    I only finished the game several weeks ago myself -- which might seem strange for a person who has moderated this forum for the last 2 years but I could never get the thing to work until I built a new system (previous system: 3ghz single core; 1gb ram; 7800GS ) -- and was thinking of penning a review but never got around to it.

    I agree with most of the points that you have raised but I didn't feel that DM was an ugly game overall; certainly parts of it were ugly, but there were some beautiful sections where the art team really nailed it.

    As far as the plot is concerned, well, I must admit that I soon lost interest and decided to knuckle down to some unrelenting chopping. A good game overall, and a lot of fun at times as well.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: May 2003
    Location: Minecraft
    I've played the game through as a fighter, assassin and mage, and I have to say I'm very impressed with the way they've balanced the game so that each has their strengths and weaknesses. My only criticism would be the City of Fire level where stealth is impossible and if you've not invested in any magic or melee skills to a decent degree, you'll have a rough time of it.

    Never had any trouble with the length of my weapon/being too close to an enemy, though I've never tried to dodge attacks, preferring to block and counter instead.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Jun 1999
    Location: Procrastination, Australia
    I'm playing it again on real hard this time and it's actually pretty challenging, in a 'one false move and you're dead' sort of way, which I like. This is particularly true in the early stages when you've got no armour. I'm starting to see some of the subtleties to the combat and aiming the hit a bit more. The field of view or whatever the problem is with the weapon range is still weird. I seem to be able to hit things about 8 feet away, and get hit from there. Admittedly the opponents are usually lunging to do it, but since I'm not to get the same range it feels odd. And the backpedal is infuriating. I have to keep remembering not to use it or I'll die, basically, which makes little sense. I should be able to step out of range of most blows if I time it right. As it is it'd be quicker if I did the moonwalk. It's annoying when blackguards and things do it with ease. Hell, I've seen archers back up about as fast as I can run forward and still get a shot off before I get to them.
    All of the above produced a really annoying scenario with the Orc leader guy. Because of the stupid cutscene I'm unarmed when the fight starts. I have 40 hitpoints and he can kill me with a single blow, even with chainmail armour, and usually does. If I'm really quick I can drink a health potion or cast a sanctuary scroll juuust before he kills me, but then I still have to win the fight. Many, many reloads I can tell you.
    Are there any hacks for backpedal speed and field of view that anyone knows? I'd like to fidle around with them.
    Oh, I forgot about the other choice you have Leaving whatsername...medieval miniskirt to the spiders, which I might try this time around.

  6. #6
    Moderator
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Hong Kong
    You can actually set the room up beforehand with fire traps and oil slicks before going for the crystal and they will remain there during the cutscene. If you're really having issues there then you can jump on top of the broken pillar to the right side of the room. For some reason, none of them will try to attack you but you can still hack at them and fire arrows at them when they run away.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: May 2003
    Location: Minecraft
    I found that fight is hardest if you're a fighter. As an assassin you'll have the lightning daggers, which are not only supremely fast, but also do double damage to orcs. As a mage, you can try to use spells (But then you have to fight all the orcs at once) but if you just use your staff to knock him to the floor, you can pin him down with power attacks and he'll never get a chance to hit you.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2005
    Backpeddling was never a problem because of what combat devolved into. All you had to do with every enemy was strafe around, hold down the mouse button to get one of the charge attacks, then move in for the strike. I'm yet to see a first-person melee system that doesn't devolve into either strafing to the sides and hacking, or the ol' move back, wait for enemy to attack, then move in for strike, then repeat.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Hmm. I seem to recall that when fighting a pack of ghouls in a room full of traps and drops, that "strafe" tactic doesn't work at all. In fact, I'm having trouble thinking of any situation in DMoMM where it would work well aside from the training room at the beginning and the odd occasional lone opponent in a wide open area.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2005
    When I say strafe, I don't just mean moving sideways. Basically, depending on the placement of other enemies, you move in a direction away from the group, hold down the mouse button, and then move in close enough to hit one of them. I got by on the normal difficulty by relying mostly on this. And, of course, any situation where it would fail could be resolved by kicking the shit out of everything, but people have said enough about the kick button.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Jun 1999
    Location: Procrastination, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by Taffer36 View Post
    Backpeddling was never a problem because of what combat devolved into...
    Actually the backpedal caused precisely the gameplay you describe. Fair enough though, it probably is to avoid the shortcomings in AI that a good backpedal tactic can defeat. Mostly I ended up skittering sideways most of the time as that's the surest sort of dodge, like you say.
    I'm playing on hard now (well, recently. Haven't actually played it for a few weeks) and it's the damage balance I find the most annoying. When you visit trashed Stonehelm again you have to fight a torrent of ghouls at a couple of points (on hard). I've got maxed strength, the best armour, a goodly amount of health... these buggers can kill me in a couple of strokes. I might have faired better if I could wield the dragon's tooth or whatever it is, but still, it takes a ton of blows to fell just one of them. I wouldn't mind their damage dealing if I could do the same to them. However, my mighty arm and my razor sharp piece of metal barely scratches these bounding semi-naked long distance runners. That's annoying.
    A game where we can hurt each other just as badly and one slip is death is my holy grail. But I probably just described a game design nightmare. Arcs of difficulty, AI and enemy differentiation usually screws this up somewhere along the way.

  12. #12
    Still Subjective
    Registered: Dec 1999
    Location: Idiocy will never die
    No, I dig that idea Muz. Problem is AI. We will always be better than AI opponents so they have to cheat. If single hits killed those guys it would be over in 5 seconds. It was a tough fight but damn I enjoyed it. The best fight for me was against Vampire Knights and those evil mage guys. I replayed one area 100+ times before I managed it. I always start games on the hardest difficulty though, it's just my thing. Makes them last longer and I don't really like replaying.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: East Coast Elite :D
    Quote Originally Posted by Muzman View Post
    A game where we can hurt each other just as badly and one slip is death is my holy grail. But I probably just described a game design nightmare. Arcs of difficulty, AI and enemy differentiation usually screws this up somewhere along the way.
    *scampers off to play oblivion lost*

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